Tuesday, November 15, 2016

#MyWorkplaceToilet- Do you have access to clean toilet at work?


Lately we have been talking a lot about the horrific condition of our public toilets, now lets talk about toilets in our workplaces. Let me begin with mine; Bhutan Toilet Org office share one unit toilet with our neighbouring office. Five men and two ladies use it. It has running water, working flush, toilet paper, waste bin. What we don't have is stain on tiles, bad smell and wet floor. Oh yes, we don't have wash basin (-1 point). In short our toilet is like the ones you find in three star hotels. Thank you.


How do you manage to keep a three star hotel like toilet in a warehouse like office? Well, thanks to our landlord for building a good structure. They didn't build the toilet as an afterthought. And thanks to us for being the first tenant because good toilet needs good users from the beginning. Maintaining broken toilet is a difficult job. As for daily cleanliness we have the following toilet cleaning roster;

  1. Monday: Jigme Nidup Gyeltshen, Program Assistant
  2. Tuesday: Tshering Nidup, Program Officer
  3. Wednesday: Dorji Phuntsho, Finanace Officer 
  4. Thursday: Passang Tshering, Executive Director 
  5. Friday: Che Dorji, Communication Officer 
  6. Toilet Paper In-charge: Tshering Choden, Executive Secretary, Rotary Club of Thimphu
Actually it's that simple. Now, is it the same in other workplaces? Well, you see most offices have good toilet in the boss's chamber, and the boss doesn't even know where the employees' toilet is. He can only smell it, but his nose is mostly running. Employees blame the cleaner and the cleaner feels people are overreacting. This is the story of most government offices.

Think about the hundreds of construction workers and the mechanics in automobile workshops, do they have access to clean toilets? Even a sorry excuse of a toilet? I often wonder where the people working in hydropower project tunnels do their big business. Of course they are in the tunnel but that's their workplace too. 

First, employers are ignorant that access to clean toilet is a basic human right (perhaps even employees too are ignorant that it's their right to demand) and second, they don't realise that toilet in the workplace could increase productivity. The time wasted by employees in looking for a safe corner to defecate and the sick leave employees take due to illnesses caused by lack of sanitation could be translated into meaningful work if there is easy access to clean toilet in the workplace. 

This year World Toilet Day theme is 'Toilets and Jobs' and in Bhutan we are observing the day by joining the cleaners at Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) to see how a day in their life feels like. Our little cousin Dr. Toilet is partnering with Bhutan Toilet Org to clean up all the toilets in the hospital on November 19, 2016. 49 medical students from RIHS are volunteering with us on the day. 

And for those of you who can't be with us physically, show us your support by sharing pictures of your workplace toilet (with hash tag #Myworkplacetoilet) on our event page. 

To understand how Toilets play a crucial role in creating a strong economy, as well as improving health and protecting people’s safety and dignity, read more on World Toilet Day blog.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Dechen, New Beginning

In April I shared a story of a lost girl called Dechen. I called her lost girl because her father never found her. Perhaps he never came looking for her. Barely 9, it was Dechen who went looking for her father who abandoned her after the demise of her mother. She parted with her brother too. She couldn't find them. But she found many families who wanted to keep her as their babysitter. At the end of her futile search she finally landed up with a family that took her to a village in Paro where she spent the over six years.

After discovering the whereabout of her uncle in Thimphu she left Paro. The joy of finding her blood relatives soon faded in the babysitting tug-of-war. She got herself into a construction job and married a co-worker to have a family of her own. She thought that would be the beginning of a good life but the young couple lost their first child and her husband lost his job after returning from his study leave. They took a loan from a friend and it haunted them every month. Dechen just earned enough to pay the monthly interest of 10% while the principle amount of Nu.43,000 kept them sleepless.

That was when I wrote her story in an attempt to find her brother and seek help from kind individuals to free the young couple from the debt. We vaguely heard that her brother was in Mongar but couldn't establish any communication with him. After I published that article I had to meet a member of her 'Paro family' who wasn't so happy. But I explained to them that I was not interested in starting what could be a very ugly legal battle.

I received a few messages from people willing to help Dechen so I called her debtor and tried negotiating with them. By then Nu.41,000 was already paid in interest and they stilled demanded full principle of Nu.43,000. I explained how 10% per month was insane, because legally allowed interest rate can't be more than 15% per annum while theirs came to 120% per annum. I begged them to humanly consider the couple's plight. I offered to pay Nu.30,000 to close the chapter because I got some people to offer that help. The debtor rejected the offer.

Then I asked the ruthless loanshark to take the matter to the court. They, like all loansharks, confidently accepted that because they have all the paperworks to eyewash even the court of law. We lost the case in Dzongkhag court. We couldn't prove to the court that it was a loan taken at 10% per month. We went to High Court and we still lost the case. I knew we would lose because the smart loanshark had all the tools to fool the court. Despite knowing that we still went ahead only to buy us time. I needed time to look for help.

For the last five months I have kept updating on the court proceeding to a Bhutanese lady well-wisher, by the name Tshering Choden, living in New York who offered to help Dechen right from the beginning. And I wrote to my friend Ugay Wangmo also working in New York to help. When the final verdict came I informed Tshering Choden and she offered to send Nu.12,000. Her cousin and husband came to my place to drop the money and meet Dechen and her husband.

My friend Ugay Wangmo immediately started fundraising among her friends in NY, like she always did and sent me Nu.22,100.

Yesterday, 26th September 2016, Dechen's husband handed over Nu.34,500 to their debtors in the presence of court officials and close the chapter to two years of sleeplessness.

I wish to thank Tshering Choden for being their from the beginning and giving me confidence, without your assurance we could have never dare to go to the court. Dechen and her husband are so grateful to you. I have shown your picture to them. Thank you.

I wish to thank my dear friend Ugay Wangmo for being my saviour for countless number of times. Dechen and her husband will always remember you for your kindness. They send their prayers to you and your friends Quen Tsho, Star Lhamo, Finso Om, Phub Gyem, Tshering Dolkar and Tshering Pem for giving them a new beginning. Thank you.
Ugay's fundraising Sheet


Dechen's Husband formally joined Bhutan Toilet Org after months of internship.

*I want to thank my wife for pushing me every day to get this done. I wish you peaceful sleep too now.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

Monsoon Lessons


Now that the monsoon has passed and things are gradually falling in place, it’s time to look back and reflect. John Dewey said, ‘we do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.’ 

Last month we saw what could be easily called the worst monsoon in many years. Sarpang town was wiped from the face of the earth. Two southern towns of Gelephu and Phuntsholing spent many sleepless nights. Samtse lost a critical bridge. Road network across the country was disrupted. Our country suffered huge losses in damages.

But in these bad times we saw the most heartwarming responses from our men in uniform across the country volunteering in rescue efforts. We saw them putting public safety ahead of their own. In them we saw heroes we could always rely on in times of need.

In the middle of confusion in the south, where the fury of nature had left everyone helpless we saw the selfless leadership of our King and the Prime Minister. The kind of leadership the rest of the world could only pray for.
Pic: His Majesty's Official Page
However, far away from the affected areas, here in the capital city we saw the other side our people, the not-so-good side. With road connection to the south blocked at several points, assumptions of fuel shortage created havoc. Avalanches of cars rushing at the fuel pumps to hoard fuel.

The endless queue of cars only showed how embarrassingly selfish we could become in the face of disaster. Everyone wanted their own tanks to be filled, disregarding the need of the fellow citizens. No one seemed to think that if our country at all suffered from fuel crisis we were all in it together.
Pic: The Bhutanese Facebook Page
Despite the comforting official announcement against the problem the ugly rush continued at all depots for days. We believed more in the hoax. Of course what more can we expect from the population that once believed in the salt shortage rumor? Some families may not have finished the salt they selfishly hoarded that day in 2013.

Besides the fuel hoarding, we also heard stories of taxi drivers overcharging desperate travellers and we saw local vegetable vendors doubling the price of their produce in the absence of competition from imported vegetable. These are some qualities that make us not Bhutanese.

We Bhutanese are by nature harmonious social beings. That makes us stand out in the big blue world despite our smallness. But why do we act like some ghosts possessed us in times like this? Why do we become so selfish suddenly?

Now that the roads are cleared as promised and that we didn’t run out of fuel, what have we learned? Even if we weren’t in queue at the fuel pump, or had anything to do with the opportunist vegetable vendors and taxi drivers we are all equally guilty in this. Remember what Albert Einstein said,

‘The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.’

This article is published in Business Bhutan on 6th August 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Original or Chinese?

(Thanks to Donald Trump’s wife Melania Trump for giving me an occasion to publish my article that was written sometime ago. She has found her place in the headlines of all reputed news media for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech. That’s how seriously Intellectual Property Right is taken beyond our neighbors.)

China makes some of world’s best products, but who cares? We only know her as the world’s biggest copycat. A common phrase, ‘Is it original or Chinese?’ says it all. The brand ‘Chinese’ is almost the opposite of the original now. It is not absolutely true and therefore unfair. But that’s how the world interprets it. The story is no better towards our south. We are literally sandwiched between two biggest copycats.

Do we want this to happen to our country? Aren’t we happy being a happy country? Intellectual property is taken casually in Bhutan. You can sing a stolen song and become a star, but if you steal a pair of shoes you will go behind the bar. We haven’t yet begun to comprehend the value of intellectual property and understand the rights.

Material property has a price, but we fail to understand that intellectual property is priceless. A book is to an author as building is to a landlord; both are fragments of their dreams upon which they have invested sweat and sleepless nights. The landlord knows that his building can house thousands of books but the author knows his book can house thousand buildings.

From the videocassette-days, Bhutanese perfected the art of piracy. First, an entrepreneur brought in pirated Indian cassettes and ran a hiring shop. His neighbor saw it and opened his version - another cassette shop. If it was even a dustbin outside their shops they would have fought over its ownership, but it was only a business idea, which got stolen. So, no one cared. Soon the town was flooded with cassette shops. How does it sound: Pirated cassettes business idea got pirated?

The story continued with telephone booths, pan shops, snooker rooms, beauty and gaming palours, Drayang, Bangkok shops, Dhaka sale, Bangkok wholesale etc. At times the copies became bigger than the originals. Customers loved more options only if they knew something about ethics.

It’s tolerable when the idea is copied into another town or at least hundred meters away, but people have the guts to replicate just next door. Look at carwash business; it’s everywhere now. Some are ten senseless meters away from the first one. Coffee cafés, gyms, Karaoke, handicraft shops, furniture stores, etc. are emerging ideas that are duplicated daily. I call these people proud thieves!

In schools, assignments are replicated from class to class and batch to batch; some assignments are passed down across generations. The geography practical assignment our batch copied in 2002 is still reproduced today. That’s because we are assessed on our correctness and not on the originality.

Let’s go to Facebook. I created a group called B-Bay- Buying and selling second hand Stuffs. When the brand B-Bay became so popular, people started copying it and the worst was when people reproduced my group, and also its name word for word. Even if they couldn’t create anything original, I wish they had named their group differently, something like C-Gay; at least they would have something to call theirs. But the very intentions were wicked; they simply wanted to mislead people.
B-Bay Imitations
First, it’s about respect and integrity. Any person with his self-respect intact would never steal; be it an idea, a piece of writing, work of art, a brand or a product. He would rather ask, borrow or buy. And second, for a small nation to develop into a knowledge society, it should be conducive for creativity and innovation to flourish, not stolen.
One Fake BBay, and People behind it (Mostly anonymous)

What gives us so much courage to take this serious issue for granted? Obviously it is our careless and forgiving Bhutanese nature and the same forgiving Bhutanese laws protecting it. Intellectual Property Office in Thimphu has staggering 15,000 plus IP Rights registrations; sadly, almost all are from outside Bhutan. We neither protect our own intellectual property rights nor care about others’. The department that is entrusted with the task of educating and protecting intellectual property rights is hardly empowered to discipline our careless citizens.

Across the world Intellectual Property Right is a serious business, they invest as much in protecting a product as they do in producing the product. The whole concept is based on mistrust. People make fortunes illegally as much as legally. They think like a thief and build the protection.

We can choose to be different. We can educate our society into a place where protection is not even needed. If every Bhutanese develops appreciation for the intellectual property rights and intolerance against any form of piracy, eventually the few bad people will have to give up.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Rice Cooker Disease?

Before electric rice cooker was introduced in our kitchen cooking rice was an art. Not many could boast about knowing the art. Even pro mothers could land up with bad pots once in a while. I remember how my mother would be on her toes once the rinsed rice was poured into the boiling water. She would keep stirring it and from time to time she would spoon out few grains and feel them between her fingers.

Once she got the right feel, which was when the grain was soften all around except a tiny bit in the centre, she would remove the pot from the oven and drain out the thick rice soup that was half the content of the pot. Then the pot was put back on the oven with low heat. I always wondered how my mother knew how much longer to wait after that because I mostly landed up with either uncooked or burnt rice.

That short story on the art of cooking rice can be a history lesson for young Bhutanese born after 90s. Because after electric rice cooker came cooking rice literally became a child's play. All you have to do is rinse the rice, along with some water pour it in the cooker. Put your index finger to see if the water level is at the first line of your finger above the level of the rice. Close the cooker. Pull the light down to 'cook' and go to sleep till mother comes home to prepare the curry. Of course some can't even do that much.

Besides the art and history of cooking rice there also seems to be solid science involved in it, which is gradually surfacing in the form of a disease. The deadly disease is called diabetes. It's sugary but not at all a sweet disease it mess with. We understand that it is to do with excessive sugar in our blood that our pancreas can't handle. But how did this happen?

Bhutan didn't have this disease before, perhaps there were some cases that we were ignorant about but now it has become so common. Well, the answer could be in the rice cooker. A research in Singapore ( Story published in Strait Times) has shown that a plate of rice is as bad as two cans of sweetened soft drink. Ask yourself how many plates you eat in a day.

We Bhutanese always ate rice, so before you ask me why I blamed rice cooker here let me tell you that before rice cooker we boiled rice till it gave away whatever it contained and drained out the soup. Remember the history lesson. So the rice we were eating didn't contain all the sugar it came with but now we are taking in every bit of sugar it contains because there is no draining out of soup.

We started using rice cookers in 90s and in the last two decades we must have forgotten how to cook rice without rice cooker but we have produced enough diabetic parents to relearn the art of cooking rice the old way.

Courtesy: Strait Times, Singapore 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Dirty Toilet is a Mindset – Clean it!

“No, the toilets shouldn’t be here, it would be an ugly sight. No, no, no it can’t be there, the wind would blow the smell into the tent.”

This is a typical instruction from the commanding officer at any event site while deciding where to build toilets for the public during big events. Working for Bhutan Toilet Organization I was engaged in few such committee meetings and it’s disappointing to observe that even the most educated official among us had to be told that the toilets won’t be dirty and it won’t smell if we don’t want to. But almost all the time they win, and these people who won’t have to worry about managing the toilets in the following days make the decision on where and how toilets should be built.

Having grown up with dirty toilets, it has now become a mindset that all toilets will be dirty. The moment we discuss about public toilet we imagine all the filthy toilets we have seen in the past and even remember how it smelled. This very mindset affects all the decision we make now and stops us from moving forward into better future. This has happened to all our existing public toilets in towns across the country.

Working for Bhutan Toilet Organization I had the privilege of managing toilets at three major events in last few months. We began with Paro Tshechu, went to Punakha during Zhabdrung Tshechu and Peling Tshechu in Thimphu. We must have served at least fifty thousands people.
During those events, standing near the toilet door for days we had fun giving people the surprises of their lives. People would walk into our toilets with their nose covered because they knew from all their fond memories that the toilet would be dirty. A moment later we would hear them exclaim from inside, “Wow, it’s so clean”. And few good people would come out without their pride and thank us for the clean toilet.
At Paro Tshechu 
We surprise the people more by sitting under the shade of the toilet and enjoying our lunch while they come in and go our of our toilets. We believe that a toilet should be clean enough to sit by and enjoy a meal. We aren’t obliging anyone to live by our belief but because toilets are kept so clean our volunteers voluntarily enjoy their lunch near the toilet.

We have a long way to go on this journey of providing clean toilets to everyone and longer way to go in making people appreciate clean toilets and develop sound toilet habits in them. Many organizations and individuals are working on this. Everyone seems to understand the need for change but what must change first lies within us. We must change the dirty toilet mindset.
We must acknowledge that a public toilet can be a nice refreshing place. It should be given its due importance. We must stop pushing toilets away from us into the locations that are hardly accessible. At least the highly educated people who make decision on the design and location of public toilets must have clean toilets at home to base their perception of toilets, unless it’s so dirty at home.

This article is originally published in Business Bhutan on 21st May 2016.

Monday, May 09, 2016

No School on Saturday

One regret I have from my childhood is not having spent enough time with my parents. I thought I would get all the time in the world to be with them once I finish my school. I didn't see this coming. After school came college and then came job, in between I lost my stepfather. Now I only get to meet my mother for less than a month each year. Soon life will be over. 

The cycle continues with my daughter. She is in school six days a week and returns home exhausted. We wait for her till afternoon on Saturdays to go anywhere. Sundays are full of activities, mostly going around and before we figure out how to make smart use of the lone family day in a week she will be gone to college. Then we will be gone. 

Typical Saturday in School
Can we not have school on Saturday? So that by Friday evening we feel so relaxed and for the next two days children can do real things in life. Even children in hostel could undertake various vocations or visit home and do real things that really matter in life. Across the world, in all countries known for best education systems children don't go to school on Saturdays. In fact children are not given homework during the weekends. 

Ever since Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk took office as the new Education Minster I felt a sudden gush of energy in the Education Ministry. People are motivated and therefore things are going to change. Many positive changes that are on dusty paper are finally going to flow into schools. But often in the name of change we push for more. It's the natural way things but did it work so far? We have overloaded schools with news things when they haven't figured out how to do the old thing very well. 


For once could we try lesser in the name of change? Because we have never tried that, so let's take away Saturday from the school week. It will avoid school-fatigue in students, and lesser they get to be in school more they will appreciate their time in school. Moreover, we talk a lot about youth issues perhaps we should give them more family time to sort things out. School is taking lot of family time away from them, and perhaps we should stop thinking that school has all the solutions. We don't, it's proven. 

As for the teachers, they are exhausted people, often frustrated, they deserve good rest over the weekend just like any civil servant, if not more, which actually should have been the case. They need time with their own children as well. What's the use if at the end of the day your own children are deprived of everything you boast to have given to your students. Therefore there can be no greater incentive than Saturday with their own family. 

In Finland, the number one education system in the world, teachers only work for 570 hours in a year, half that of the United States and third of ours. Our teachers work 1440 hours in a year. But where are we in comparison? Therefore less is more. If anything should be more it should be the salary because in Finland (again) teachers are paid almost Nu.5600 per hour. They earn our monthly salary in half a day. So lets forget about the salary, and concentrate on Saturday because it's possible. 

Other civil servants who have their Saturdays off don't really get to relax because they have to prepare their children for school and drop them to school. Then wait till afternoon to go anywhere. So even when so many offices are closed on Saturday we still see traffic jam because the schools are open. 

I had this on my mind for the longest time but now seems the right time to share because of the optimism that has come with the new minister. So I hereby request Education Minister to consider removing things from our system, instead of adding and let Saturday be the first to be removed.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Dechen: A Girl Who Was Lost and Never Found

Dechen still wonders why her father didn’t come looking for her. She wonders if he knew she was actually lost before he died. She remembers having an elder brother who she wishes to meet once.

This true story begins with the death of Dechen’s mother. They were living in Dechencholing where her father was a gardener. After her mother died her father left little Dechen at a neighbor’s and left for Punakha with his new wife. She learned later that she was given away as babysitter. When her father didn’t return for a long time she ran away from her new home and started her journey towards Punakha to find her father, on foot.

Picture and story shared with permission 
Seeing a nine-year-old little girl walking alone on the highway above Simtokha a car stopped. She told the person that her father was in Punakha and she was going there to look for him. The car gave her a ride till Khuruthang. Upon reaching there she didn’t know where to look for her father. She had thought Punakha would be a small place. Having knocked all the doors in Khuruthang town she finally reached a house where a lady took her in.

The lady asked her to live there and work for her until she could find her father. She agreed but when she couldn’t find her father after many days she decided to head back to Thimphu. When she reached Thimphu she went to her maternal uncle’s place in Changzamtog. Her uncle had long moved away. The new tenant occupying the apartment took her in and persuaded her to live with them. With nowhere else to go she stayed with them hoping her father would come looking for her.

Her new guardian soon took her to their village in Paro Shaba and made her babysit there. She grew up from a little girl into a young woman in the new place and became part of the family and the place. Though she wasn’t sent to school or treated equally at home she was happy to have found a place to sleep and feed. She would walk her master’s child to school and work in the field. Often she would take their vegetable produce and sell them by the roadside along with other farmers. 

After six years in Paro, in 2010 she finally met a woman, among the mothers who came to drop their children to school, who knew her parents. It was from her that Dechen learned her father had passed away recently. The woman helped her find the number of her uncle living in Thimphu. And from her phone she made a call. Her uncle asked her to come to Thimphu.

She went home that day and shared the good news with her master’s family only to upset them. She expected them to pay her for all the services and let her go but it turned out that they didn’t want her to leave. Her master’s daughter had gone to Australia and they needed her hand in raising their grandchild.

During her conversations with her uncle over the phone she told him about the situation, so he asked someone in Paro to help her get out of there and pay for her travel till Thimphu. Early one morning, before anyone was awake she ran away from home and went to her uncle’s connection and escaped to Thimphu.

She found her uncle in Thimphu and met many of her relatives whom she never knew existed. But her brother was not among them. Nobody knew where her brother was. Her relatives were nice to her and she was on high demand because she was good at household chores and most importantly at babysitting.

After a while she felt the need to work and earn for herself because she knew no one was going to pay her at the end. So she joined as a laborer at construction of Le Mariden hotel in Thimphu. That’s when her relationship with her relatives soured because she couldn’t be as useful to them now. At her worksite she met a man with whom she finally married and found a place to call her own.

But life had more misery in store for her; she gave birth to a premature baby and lost it shortly. Her husband who now had a steady job took extraordinary leave to pursue degree in India. And to make ends meet Dechen came looking for a hotel job in my sister in-law’s small restaurant. That’s how I knew all about her. She was still recovering from her C- section surgery when she joined. It’s been two years since she joined the restaurant. Her husband returned with a degree but lost his old job.

Last year during Thimphu Tshechu her husband had taken a loan of Nu.43,000 from a friend on a ridiculous interest rate of 10% per month to run a stall. Their stall had run into loss and ever since the loan shark has been harassing them. They have already paid over Nu.30,000 in interest alone and their friend has been raining calls on them. Once they were locked inside their own house when they refused to open the door... 

Dechen once asked me ‘Achu, people say if we suffer we will prosper, but why is my suffering never ending?” I couldn’t answer her. I’m still trying to overcome haunting images formed in my head. It’s almost a horror story and she is brave enough to have survived.

I have so many questions; why did her father leave her? Why he never came looking r=for her? Did he once think of her? Where could her brother be? Why didn’t those families help her find her father? How could all these happen in Bhutan? Why is life so unfair to her? How could Dechen be so happy despite all these?

And through this blog I would like to seek everyone’s help in finding her lost brother. His name is Sonam Tshering and he must be in his mid twenties now. He may be illiterate. Let us make at least one thing fair for her. If you wish to help her more, get in touch with me. I can share other details or even let you meet her personally. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Moment with His Majesty the King

It was the last day of Paro Tshechu and my team was celebrating our four days of success, having delivered our mission of providing clean toilets to thousands of people and literally putting an end to open defecation in the place of worship. 

We were paid a surprise visit by His excellency the Prime Minister and the honourable chairperson of National Council among others. They didn't go to VIP toilet but our public toilets were kept so well that we could impress all our esteem guest and our Prime Minster. 

Thank god His Excellency visit before we faced the water problem. There was about an hour of water shortage and within that short time our toilets were overwhelmed by problems. When I heard the arrival of His Majesty to the Tshechu ground I was anxiously running after people to get the problem fixed. I was sweating and panting. I bothered every official I knew in the area and finally we caught hold of the plumber, Ap Jochu, the only person who knew how to fix it. I nearly kissed him. 

By the time I caught my breath back I was told His Majesty was leaving. I didn't even get a decent chance to look at my king. From the extreme corner we were located at I saw waves of people struggling to get closer view of His Majesty as he left. I could have joined the crowd and pushed myself forward to get a glimpse too but we were running low of Toilet Paper supply. So I had to run to a shop nearby to purchase toilet paper rolls. On the way, from above the wall I saw His Majesty briefly on the last turn on the road down to the valley. 

I reached the other toilet to check if they needed toilet paper. Just then I got a call. It was Dasho Zimpon. He told me that I was summoned by His Majesty. I couldn't believe this was happening. I ran to the location Dasho called me to and down the valley we followed the entourage. I was flying in the air. We got ahead of the royal entourage and Dasho made me wait on the bridge. I was the only person kept on the bridge and the next person I would see was His Majesty. I could see thousands of people on both ends of the bridge waiting to get a glimpse of His Majesty. I was frozen, I didn't move an inch even though no one was watching. 

Then came the moment, I couldn't look up directly but I could make out from the radiance that His Majesty had come. I bowed down to pay my respect and froze back to stillness. His Majesty congratulated me on my teams' work during the Tshechu and told me to walk alongside him across the bridge. 
The Moment that will live with me forever

I had crossed that bridge thousand times in my life but even in my most beautiful dream I haven't seen myself walking with His Majesty the King and talking about the work I am so passionate about. I could share Bhutan Toilet Org's Roadmap and the challenges faced in maintaining public toilets. His Majesty talked about the importance of behavioural change in making our efforts sustainable. And at the other end of the bridge His Majesty spent some more time blessing my dream with his guidance and assurance of royal support henceforth. Everything seemed so possible suddenly and I couldn't wait to tell my team. 

To make this priceless moment live with me forever His Majesty granted a Kupar with me with the permission to share it here. I shall look at this photograph and stay motivated for the rest of my life. And this picture shall remind me each day that I can't take rest on my dream anymore.
My Asset, Motivation and Reminder 
For making this priceless moment possible I would like to thank His Excellency the Prime Minister, my toilet team, my volunteers across the country and all those people who believed in me and supported Bhutan Toilet Org.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Toilet Experiment During Paro Tshechu

Tshechu being the oldest and the most popular festival in Bhutan brings thousands of people together. It happens in every Dzongkhag from three to fives days every year. That gives Bhutan Toilet Org the perfect setting for our Toilet Experiment. Actually it’s more than an experiment, it’s a campaign to provide clean toilets to people and make them appreciate the experience and learn to play their role better in keeping the toilets clean.
We call it experiment because after our November 2015 Nationwide Public Toilet Cleaning campaign we gathered some myths about Bhutanese toilet habits. Therefore we wanted to see and hopefully breaks those myths. 

1. Would our people put in a little effort to look for toilet when they need one?
2. Would people go inside the toilet when they find one?
3. Would people flush if the water were available?
4. Would people use toilet paper if provided free?
5. Would people wash their hands after visiting toilet if water and soap were provided?

Our first successful experiment was conducted in Paro last week during the Paro Tshechu. In preparation our staff and volunteers visited the event ground three days ahead of the Tshechu and in collaboration with the Dzongkhag Administration all the three toilets around the venue were cleaned thoroughly, all damages were repaired and each toilet was furnished with buckets, jugs, waste bins, soaps, room fresheners, and toilet paper (Hung right on the doors). Maps showing the location of the three toilets were placed strategically in the ground and on the routes. Direction signs were put at various points to guide people to our toilets.
Toilet Location Map 
Throughout the five days of Tshechu the three toilets were maned by at least five volunteers and with support from community police all corners, which were used as toilet in the past, were block.

We found out over 10,000 have visited our toilets but we had to redirect hundreds to our toilets from open spaces. Old habits of doing in the open reduced drastically by the third day. By word of mouth most people have heard about the availability of clean toilets.

Only about 150 rolls of toilet paper were used, which was quite less given the number of people. Most people took toilet paper only after verbal reminder. We had to remove only one stone.

People flushed very well in the toilets that were supplied with buckets and jugs but in the toilets that were equipped with flush tanks there were several case of un-flushed pots. Our people seemed to have issues with flush systems.

Use of waste bins inside the toilet had to be verbally advocated because despite the availability of bins we had to remove several sanitary pads from inside the toilet pots and window frames.

Washing hands after using toilet was found to be a rare habit among out people. Doma spit caused much of stains in the toilet pots, washbasins, toilet floor and walls.

We also found out the there should be more chambers for women because unlike men they need to get inside a chamber whether they pee or poop, which led to over crowding outside women’s toilet.

One-hour water shortage on the last days in two of our toilets caused a huge problem to our team. Several toilets were blocked and they started stinking almost immediately. Next time we are going to have a backup plan because without water everything can go wrong within no time. Thank god, the officials helped us find the plumber right away to solve the issue.

We received enormous appreciation from our users. Some happy users took time to tell us how things used to be in the past. They told us that they could hardly find a space to put their feet among the open faeces down the hill. They shared how the change in wind direction would bring the smell onto the tshechu ground. It was natural for everyone to fall sick after the tshechu.

But this year we changed it all. And on the other side Clean Bhutan volunteers from Paro College managed the waste so well that the ground remained clean throughout the event as if no one threw any thing at all. They have collected over 250 bags of waste.
Visit by Prime Minister
Because we maintained the toilets so well the organizers didn’t have to worry about having separate toilet for VIPs. We have the honour of serving the Prime Minister, the Chairperson of National Council and the Cabinet ministers among others and impress them equally. We have received very good feedback from tourists and their tour guides expressed their pleasure lavishly.

Dasho Dzongda and Dzongrab personally monitored out activity and expressed their appreciations and gratitude for doing them proud. Their officials made sure that our team had our meals and refreshment on time. But beyond everything, on the final day a magical moment happened, that’s my next blog.
Our Volunteers and Staff
Our volunteers were from Yeozerling Higher Secondary School and I must thank principal Chencho Tshering for sending a group of amazing young people. In five days they have showed their endurance, patience, and positive attitude to work. They have inspired me so much that I shall keep our organization’s door open for them in the future because they are they kind of people I want to work with.

I would like to thank our following friends for financially supported our activity

1. Tashi Namgay Resort (Karma Jigme)- Nu.5000
2. Chencho Handicraft (Choki Wangmo) – Nu.5000
3. Bhutan Made (Tshering Penjor Shaka)- Nu.3000
4. James Brady- US$. 100
5. Indo General Store: Refreshment worth Nu.1600
6. Sangay Wangmo T/khang: Refreshment worth Nu.500
7. Yeshey Dorji Central Store: Refreshment worth Nu.310

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